Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
04 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 04 Mar 2015

Snow-cover reconstruction methodology for mountainous regions based on historic in situ observations and recent remote sensing data

A. Gafurov, S. Vorogushyn, D. Farinotti, D. Duethmann, A. Merkushkin, and B. Merz

Abstract. Spatially distributed snow-cover extent can be derived from remote sensing data with good accuracy. However, such data are available for recent decades only, after satellite missions with proper snow detection capabilities were launched. Yet, longer time series of snow-cover area are usually required, e.g., for hydrological model calibration or water availability assessment in the past. We present a methodology to reconstruct historical snow coverage using recently available remote sensing data and long-term point observations of snow depth from existing meteorological stations. The methodology is mainly based on correlations between station records and spatial snow-cover patterns. Additionally, topography and temporal persistence of snow patterns are taken into account. The methodology was applied to the Zerafshan River basin in Central Asia – a very data-sparse region. Reconstructed snow cover was cross validated against independent remote sensing data and shows an accuracy of about 85%. The methodology can be used in mountainous regions to overcome the data gap for earlier decades when the availability of remote sensing snow-cover data was strongly limited.

Short summary
Spatially distributed snow-cover data are available only for the recent past from remote sensing. Sometimes we need snow-cover data over a longer period for climate impact analysis for the calibration/validation of hydrological models. In this study we present a methodology to reconstruct snow cover in the past using available long-term in situ data and recently available remote sensing snow-cover data. The results show about 85% accuracy although only a limited number of stations (7) were used.